One of the largest and most mysterious of Youssef Nabil’s hand-painted photographs is a portrait of the artist tucked into the woods of Vincennes, an English garden in the eastern part of Paris. Foliage crowds the corners of the composition, a lily pond catches the reflection of surrounding trees, and there, set back and centered, the artist’s arm slips out from beneath a blanket of leaves to expose the curve of his back and the nape of his neck.
Self-Portrait, Vincennes, 2003, was one of forty-five photographs included in Nabil’s solo show “Portraits Self-Portraits.” One of his most substantial exhibitions to date, it displayed the full range of his work, from brassy celebrity shots to quieter depictions of himself and friends. Like all the self-portraits, the one from Vincennes carries an erotic charge muted by melancholy. Nabil always shows himself alone and traveling abroad, the nomadic
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